LIVE BLOGGING THE INAUGURATION
9:53pm: I'm going to leave the last words of the evening to George Packer, who, writing for the newyorker.com, ended his reflections on Obama's inaugural address by saying: "The most reassuring thought on this Inauguration Day is that we Americans always get the President we deserve."
8:15pm: Ok...Anderson Cooper thinks telling a band "hit it" is some kind of youthful hip-speak. Is Cooper secretly 73 but looks 30 years younger?
8:09pm: Now I'm watching footage from the Youth Ball again and now the First Couple is dancing to an instrumental (sounds like a brass band) version of "At Last." I hope Etta's getting residuals! (And seriously, they couldn't book Etta for this?)
7:24Pm: I'm watching the Obamas appearance at the Neighborhood Ball and it is very, very sweet and I don't mean to hate but seriously, I really wish Beyonce would stop singing "At Last." The song is just beyond her, like it is almost any singer not named Etta James (who, I may add, is not dead! They couldn't book her or something?)
This all said, you gotta say, the Obamas are a ridiculously attractive couple. That's not a criteria for making a good president but it doesn't hurt.
7:16pm: By the way, I'm sure it's already been said, but Obama's presidency promises to be one with the most Asian/Asian American involvement ever, including down to Michelle's gown maker (and of course, there's his half-sister, brother-in-law, niece, and cabinet appointees.
7:07pm: So I'm watching the Youth Ball and Kanye West is performing and I'm thinking about how much Kanye has emphasized the issue of "personal responsibility" in his stumping - including his inauguration speech today - and am wondering how this message will go over with cultural elites, especially artists like Kanye, Jeezy, Jay-Z and others who have been very vocal in support of Obama's candidacy and presidency but would also be prime targets for criticism in regards to the politics of "responsibility."
Also, I've only now been able to tune in and apparently, I've missed out.
2:32pm: Can Obama's campaign sue Pepsi for copyright infringement? Or just plain shamelessness?
1:50pm: The street anthem of the moment. (Jay-Z's remix of Young Jeezy's "My President Is Black."
1:47pm: Folks in S.F. replace the Bush Street signs with "Obama." (This happened back in Nov too).
1:26pm: This has been said countless, countless times but it is so extraordinary - just as a visual statement - to see the First Couple. Obama could keep silent the entire day and still make a profound statement.
In lighter news, Al Roker was probably the most entertaining guy on the MSNBC team today. Thank god Chris Matthews had to take off to do "Hardball" - provided, he's a lot less soporific than watching the PBS team but good god, does he go on and on. If he could, he'd probably talk over himself.
Meanwhile, I think feedback on Michelle Obama's dress preceded analysis of Barack's speech. A highlight from Slate.com's chatter: "The color was utterly weird and daring, a chartreuse-y yellow which, while it looked great with her coloring and the forest-green gloves she had on, seemed to carry no intrinsic message besides "I look awesome in this." (By the way: I don't know if J.Crew is publicly traded, but buy stock in them if they are. Their kids' line is about to blow up).
9:52am: J: I have to admit that the most moving part of this morning is watching the tears of people on the Mall. It's a very good day to be an American.
O: First time in a while (well, since Nov. 4).
J: Now, I'm going to balance out the solemnity of the day by watching the "Black Bush" skit from Chappelle Show.
J: I'm now watching George W. Bush enter a Marine Corps helicopter to head for retirement. Oh, happy day. Our long national nightmare is over.
(Junichi ducks out. Oliver might stay on for the parade but we'll see).
9:49am: J: By the way, I'm astounded -- dare I say, impressed -- that W didn't pardon all of his cronies and preemptively pardon himself. I thought Scooter Libby, Alberto Gonzales, Duke Cunningham were good bets on getting a pardon.
O: Yeah - are all his pardons public now?
J: The border patrol officers were the last to get pardons, I believe.
9:40am: O: [Regarding Rev. Lowery's benediction:] "When white will embrace what is right." Oh snap.
J: "Tanks beaten into tractors." I like that line.
O: Yeah but "When yellow will be mellow?" WTF does that mean? I guess yellow is hard to find a rhyme for.
J: "When it's yellow, let it mellow. When it's brown, flush it down."
O: He needs a better rhyme book.
J: Yellow does rhyme with fellow. "If you're yellow, you can be a White House fellow." Or, "If you're Oriental, you won't be seen as mental." ... It's too early. We should not live-blog before 10 am.
9:32am: O: I don't mean to sound like an a--hole but that sounded like a parody of what poetry sounds like.
J: To Alexander's credit, her poem is better than Maya Angelou's painful "A Rock, A River, A Tree" poem for Clinton's inauguration.
O: I forgot that. Was it that bad?
J: I appreciate Maya Angelou, but I remember being very disappointed with her poem. "On The Pulse of Morning" actually began with the line: "A Rock, A River, A Tree / Hosts to species long since departed / Marked the mastodon." I can name several dozen of my former Poetry for the People students and classmates who could have cranked out a much better poem.
9:28am: O: PBS just said he's "Barack Hussein Obama Jr.". He's a Jr?
J: I think that's wrong. Actually, it's right. He is a junior.
J: Assuming Wikipedia is right.
9:23am: J: Even though he has only been president for a few minutes, his message to the rest of the world already and undoubtedly is improving this country's standing with the planet.
O: Yeah. I feel like the underlying, unsaid qualifier to every line is, "unlike my predecessor."
J: At last, he doesn't seem afraid to say the word "Muslim".
9:20am: J: As of now, this sounds a bit too much like a stump speech. I never thought I'd say this, but I could actually use more soaring rhetorical flourishes.
O: Really? I thought he has a lot of that too. But I hear you.
9:18am: J: Hearing him say "All deserve to pursue their full measure of happiness" is a bittersweet moment. I can't avoid thinking about how he opposes gay marriage.
O: Yeah, I had the same thought.
9:12am: J: I have to admit ... as the soon-to-be father of an Arab American child, I take great pride in hearing his whole name: Barack Hussein Obama, parts of which have Arab and/or Muslim origins. My son will surely have a name that is as far from "George Washington" as his.
9:06am: O: And here we are!
J: Did the Chief Justice just f* up this amazing historical moment?
O: I don't know. That whole thing seemed kind of stumbly.
J: For a brief second, I was alarmed when there were cannons firing at him as soon as he was sworn in.
O: Ha! Me too.
9:03am: O: [During the "Air and Simple Gifts" performance] I think I liked Aretha better.
J: If you had the chance to pick an inaugural poet and you were forced to choose a rapper, who would you choose?
O: I think Young Jeezy is aiming for 2012.
J: I would give MC Skat Kat a call.
8:59am: J: Trivia: When JFK was inaugurated, the person holding the Bible was not Jackie O, but the official clerk of the Supreme Court. That clerk was James R. Browning, who became a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judge. And I served as a law clerk for Judge Browning in 1999. (That makes me only one degree away from JFK. Holla!)
8:54am: O: Aretha is rocking a BIG bow.
J: She looks quite thin by comparison.
O: Man, I can't believe she gets to sing "My Country Tis of Thee" for the incoming president. Hell yeah.
8:52am: O: I'm sure Jeremiah Wright would have killed this. I'm also looking forward to the day when the invocation is done by someone besides a Christian.
8:50am: J: Do you believe either of us will live to see a president inaugurated with his hand on anything other than the Bible?
O: Yeah. I could see a Jewish or even Muslim President one day. Don't know about an atheist though! I guess he/she could put their hand on a Richard Dawkins book or something.
8:44am: J: Songs that would be awkward for Aretha Franklin to sing: "Chain of Fools," "Who's Zoomin' Who," "Mr. Big Stuff."
O: Ha. "Mr. Big Stuff" isn't her song though; that's Jean Knight.
J: Ok, let's go with "The Weight" instead.
8:43am: O: What's up with Barack H. Obama?
8:30am: O: You think Obama made a bad move with the Rick Warren invite?
J: Although Rick Warren is no Pat Robertson, I am very disappointed in the choice. I hold out hope, however, that his calculated decision will be a small footnote in history after Obama signs a national civil rights bill banning discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation. (Go ahead, call me naively optimistic.)
8:36am: O: People in Congress have some loooooong titles.
8:31am: O: "O-Ba-ma" sounded like "No more Bush" to me. Either chant works! Also, PBS commentator on the Obama children and (presumably) their Blackness: "this is a day where symbolism actually means something." Yup.
J: Speaking of Natalie Maines, I know that she is one of thousands that have one of those "Bush's Last Day: 1.20.09" countdown keychains. How thrilling it must be to see it count down to zero and become obsolete.
8:27am: O: Obama kids are looking cute today (as usual). What is the what woman in front of them wearing though? Oof.
J: Rosalynn Carter looks amazingly good and -- dare I say it -- cute. I kind of have a crush on her. Don't tell Jimmy I have lust in my heart.
O: For real too: Laura Bush radiates charm that her husband couldn't muster a fraction of on his best day.
8:24am: J: I'm watching CNN. It's very surreal to hear Campbell Brown talk about the history of slavery, black men being 3/5ths of a human being, the fact that the Capitol building was built by slaves -- all while we're looking at pictures of a smiling Dan Quayle, Walter Mondale, and Al Gore.
8:18am: O: How bummed do you think Bush Sr. is about his son's legacy and what it's done to the Bush name.
J: Sadly, I suspect that Jeb is going to make a run in 2012 to try to fix that problem. They both seem to have powerful needs to impress their father.
O: From all accounts, Jeb was supposed to be next anyway. W jumped the line.
8:16am: J: Is Justice Scalia wearing a Kangol? I heard Justice Alito isn't here, which is really lame. He's probably still bitter that Biden/Obama voted against him.
Live-blogging is fun. Why don't we live-blog other things like the Teen Choice Awards or the upcoming Bruins/Rangers game?
O: I think we want to keep the two readers we have.
8:14am: O: Much as I like Rachel Maddow, it's really painful to also have to deal with Chris Matthews' incessant pattering. Switching over to the PBS feed now...
8:09am: Junichi's in the house! His opening thoughts:
J: Since junior high school, I knew I would be excited to see a person of color elected president. I never imagined, however, how that enthusiasm would be eclipsed by a passionate desire to see the existing administration go. For me, the relief in seeing an end to Bush's incompetence and crimes against humanity far exceed the joy of this significant but largely symbolic day. Any era where a country-western singer gets accused of treason for lightly criticizing the president is a dark chapter of this nation's history that I'm happy to see end.
7:58am: How long until a rapper shows up in a video with the same tricked out Presidential limo?
7:45am: For those on the Presidential sartorial beat...Michelle Obama is looking (in the words of my wife) kind of Jackie O. today. Stylin! (Apparently it's Isabel Toledo but I have no idea what that means).
7:39am: I don't mean to keep beating this dead horse, but a guest on MSNBC just said that this moment represented the "perfection of the nation" (in reference to the "a more perfect union" part of the preamble of the U.S. Constitution).
We're perfect now? Obama's inauguration is the salve for the wound of slavery (which the commentator implied)? Please be serious.
BTW: Yo Junichi - wake up, dude!
7:26am, 1/20: I feel like there should be a voiceover that intones, "this moment brought to you by George W. Bush".
But seriously, the number of peole out there on the Mall is incredible. On Nov. 4th, I had a brief impulse to want to fly the family out for the inauguration. I'm kind of regretting not going through with that.
Random: I was trying to figure out who the young Asian girl, sleeping through parts of the Lincoln concert was and thanks to Angry Asian Man, now I know: Obama's niece Suhaila.
12:04am, 1/20: Cheney to observe inauguration from a wheelchair after injuring his back, moving boxes. The karma is delicious.
10:37pm, 1/19: Hua Hsu just sent me this link to John Heilemann's criticism of the inaugural celebrations as being obnoxiously expensive ($125,000,000 - I had no idea) and just plain obnoxious. I think Heilemann makes some excellent points here, especially around the contrived nature of much of the proceedings. And talk about sticker shock. $125M (or more)? In this economy? I hope at least the money is going to help stimulate some part of local D.C. economy!
10:30pm, 1/19: Jeff Chang, updating his blog for the first time in a month, drops one of those "realest sh-- I ever wrote" posts.
8:24pm, 1/19: So tomorrow, if we can pull it off, I think Junichi and I will try to live-blog the inauguration (along with 310,103,908 other blogs). J may be too buried under work to join but I'm hoping he can.
NPR's Fresh Air had a great show today, interviewing civil rights pioneer John Lewis, followed by Ta-Nehisi Coates (of the Atlantic Monthly); both of them reflecting on what Obama's presidency/election means for American race relations, Black identity, and the current state of our culture and society. One of the more poignant moments during Terri's interview with Lewis came when she asked him: "of all the people you knew, who have passed, who would you have wanted most to have been able to see Obama's inauguration?" It's a helluva question but it's something I had pondered in November too and it was a moment mixed with profound sadness and humility in the midst of joy and elation.
I can only imagine what was going through Lewis' mind during that interview; there have been so many people who sacrificed for the struggle of civil rights - not just in the '50s and '60s, but through our current times - who didn't live to see Obama elected or sworn in. The one person I dwell upon is the late June Jordan, who I feel fortunate to have taken a class with at Berkeley in the early '90s (she died of cancer in 2002) in which we spent the entire semester discussing and probing the writings of both MLK and Malcolm X. I wish she could have lived to see tomorrow.
I think of Rosa Parks and of Shirley Chisholm, lost to us so recently. Of Thurgood Marshall and Fannie Lou Hamer. Of James Balwin. Of Martin and Malcolm. And more importantly, of all the people whose names we don't memorize but whose sacrifices through tears, sweat and all too often, blood, all went into making tomorrow possible.
On that note, I am very happy that Yuri Kochiyama is still with us and can bear witness.
And I do wish, a little, that my daughter were older so that she could appreciate the gravity of the moment (we tried watching the Lincoln show yesterday and she was utterly bored...not that I could blame her, I was too I suppose). But I'm also thankful that she'll grow up in a world where Obama's election may likely seem quite ordinary - for all the good reasons. That is also the possible world Junichi's child will be born into and it's not such a bad one.